Chances

1 a.m. in Brooklyn
Out of the subway’s cold, enveloping dark
The man emerges
Briefcase in hand, hurrying to get
Home
Wary eyes watching, glance in all directions.

The streets deserted, foreboding in the stillness
The light of lamps unable to spell the lingering dread
Shadows creeping across the brick
Inside vestibules where doors are locked.

Walking faster
Past shops barricaded with steel curtains
Fortification against the night
While somewhere in the deepening fog
A siren bleeds.

At the end of one long block
Another two to go
Just outside a closed café
Something on the sidewalk
By the sewer grate
Large and—what—?

A body.
Lies unmoving.
Alive or dead? What to do?
Finger nails polished, red on pale white skin
Female.
Face down, tucked and covered in dark hair.
What to do? To get involved in what?
In Brooklyn 1 a.m.

Not my business, not to know
He thought
Move on, she must be sleeping
Drugged or drunk
Someone else will stop.
The hour is late
A morning’s rise at 6 a.m.
Meetings to be deadlined
No time to waste
She must be sleeping.
Someone else behind me
Someone else will
Stop.
Move on.

In the slanting rays of the rising sun
The bustling of a new and proper day
Keepers opening windows, shops
He walks past quickly
A bright cafe
An empty sidewalk
Nothing by the sewer grate
But stuck in his head forever
The nagging not knowing
Alive or dead? He didn’t stop.


(Previously published in Kookamonga Square, Feb.2003)

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Comments (1)

Laurence, it's excellent. The city with its indifference and 'it's none of my business' attitude comes alive. Now the body and the final question will haunt me. Julia